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Week 23: US Rail Freight Traffic Rides High on Intermodal Gains

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Jun. 18 2018, Updated 2:27 p.m. ET

Week 23: US rail freight traffic

On June 13, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) released its rail freight data for the week prior (ended June 9), or Week 23. The data pertains to the 12 North American rail carriers (IYT) who submit their weekly freight statistics to the AAR. The AAR categorizes carload commodities into 20 major groups, including coal, chemicals, grain, and primary metal products. Intermodal data is reported separately.

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In Week 23, US rail traffic, including intermodal, expanded 4.2% YoY (year-over-year) to ~561,000 railcars from ~538,300. Intermodal traffic growth accounted for most of the gain, rising 5.6% YoY to 289,500 containers and truck trailers from ~274,000. Carload traffic rose 2.8% YoY to ~271,600 units from ~264,200.

Changes in carload commodity groups

In Week 23, seven of the ten carload commodity groups registered YoY growth. The groups included metallic ores and metals, non-metallic minerals, and petroleum products. Commodity groups whose volumes fell included miscellaneous carloads, forest products, and coal.

In the first 23 weeks this year, US railroads (GWR) moved 5.9 million carloads, marking a 1.3% YoY rise. Intermodal units rose 5.9% YoY to 6.2 million units. US railroads’ total combined traffic rose 3.6% YoY to 12.2 million units.

Non-US rail traffic in Week 23

Canadian rail carriers (CNI) hauled ~82,300 carloads in Week 23, resulting in 6.2% YoY growth. Their intermodal traffic rose 0.8% YoY to ~69,300 containers and trailers. In the first 23 weeks of the year, these rail carriers’ cumulative rail traffic rose 3.4% YoY to ~3.4 million intermodal units and carloads.

Mexican railroads (KSU) moved ~21,900 carloads and ~18,600 intermodal units. Cumulatively, Mexican rail transporters hauled ~873,300 carloads and intermodal units in the first 23 weeks of the year. In the next part, we’ll continue our discussion with a look at BNSF Railway’s (BRK.B) traffic trends.

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